How I Learned To Stop Worrying About And Love The Kardashians

Posted 1/04/2011 by smartblackboy in Labels: , , , , , , , ,

I have a yin-yang relationship with pop culture. Sometimes I am an ardent defender – writing enthusiastic essays on how Lady Gaga saved pop music or how Flavor Flav is the next Tupac Shakur. However, I am just as likely to keep my head buried in the sand. I never read a Harry Potter novel until after the last book was published, I have never had a celebrity crush, and I still need someone to teach me how to Dougie. It is even worse when it comes to reality TV. Although I have a weakness for poorly scripted teen dramas (Gossip Girl) and was briefly addicted to Tila Tequila’s A Shot At Love – for the most part the Survivors, Hills, Jersey ShoresKeeping Up With The Kardashians. of the world have passed me over. To put it more succinctly: I used to think most reality shows are stupid, exploitative, and boring – and nothing epitomized this more than

I first became aware of Kim Kardashian through a sex-tape. I thought she was merely a Paris Hilton wannabe, the curvier, ethnic foil to the blonde, Californian heiress. I never wanted to know about her – and it was years before I was aware she had sisters. Really the Kardashians never fully invaded my world until late Summer 2009, when I was booking at a small venue next to a brand new club in the midst of a very soft opening. The bar manager told me one evening that the Kardashians were coming – and it was a big deal.

I didn’t understand why. I’d encountered “star power” before: I knew the mere mention of a pop star’s presence was enough to bring out teens and adult women adorned in pearls and heels to an otherwise small, sometimes sleepy art gallery. Yet, when a partner in a prestigious law firm I worked with remarked that the only celebrity he would be interested in would be one of those Kardashian sisters, I took notice. And then I did what any self-respecting, intellectually curious young person would do – I went to Wikipedia.

It was disappointing. The Kardashians were indeed simply famous for being famous. They couldn’t sing, act, model, do chemistry, invent new financial products, and frankly weren’t even that cute. Their biological father was a high powered lawyer and their step father an Olympic athlete. It seemed like the biggest thing the Kardashians had going for them was being born. Now, I don’t blame them for that – I know a great deal of my success has to do with being born to the right parents, going to the right schools, and being at the right place at the right time. I also know if my parents had been famous or had more money – I would probably have had even more success. We all play the cards we are dealt – I get it. But it wasn’t enough for the Kardashians to enjoy their lifestyle, they had to invade mine – people had to talk about them – they were followed, harassed, emulated, and loved. This I still could not understand.

I ended up missing the Kardashians when they came into town, I think I went to a jazz party at friend’s house. I saw the pictures though, hundreds of people all dressed to the nines – trying to get a glimpse of Kim, Khloe, or Kourtney. I promised the next time I had an opportunity to be amongst “stars” I would take it up – and sure enough it came around, on a snowy evening in February.

I have been a basketball fan all of my life – I played the game growing up, then recreationally in college, and still regularly play HORSE to this day. So, I was thrilled that the NBA All-Star weekend was going to be in Dallas, and my good friends at the club next door were hosting one of the biggest parties of the weekend – thrown by Lebron James and Drake. I was not prepared for the experience. I dressed nice – in my best suit with my coolest pocket square. Somehow we had scored all-access VIP passes that apparently were running $2,500 a piece, and we even were able to travel up to the private Penthouse suite. It was cool to see the likes of Lebron James, Jaimie Foxx, Vince Young, and Kevin Durant (I somehow missed Drake) – to literally be next them. However, what will always stick with me is the people who were there, who did not have all-access VIP, who paid $100 to be in the overflow area, who wouldn’t even get into the actual club, and didn’t have a chance to get into the normal VIP, not to mention the real VIP, not to mention the area for actual celebrities. Yet they were there on the hope that they would have some fairy tale moment and be able to glimpse their beloved icons, that like the woman in the New Testament, if they could but grasp the helm of celebrity, they too would be saved.

Then I understood what it was the Kardashians did. Even though they didn’t have a wicked jump shot or trade crack rocks for rap lyrics, they were masters at dealing in the most valuable commodity of all: hope. For many the Kardashians represent a sort of aspiration, and dare I say American ethos that would make Andy Warhol blush. The Kardashians represent the western frontier – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They have the success, lifestyle, and fortune that many dream of without having the traditional talents. What they do have in spades -- something every young creative needs to learn -- is the ability to manipulate and influence people. They embody how the mere proximity to fame can make one famous and successful: the myth that a planet orbiting the sun may itself turn into a star.

The Kardashians make apparent what has always been true: it is not what you can do but who you know. One only has to look most recently to the success of the Young British artists led by Damien Hirst in the late 90’s for confirmation of this. Although many of these artists were quite talented, they were arguably no more talented than other artists their age – yet they were close by to stars and in time became stars themselves. We see it in music with the relatively unknown band opening up for the star band of the summer, and two summers later they are the headline act, with a new unknown band opening for them. Yet we all agree to a certain degree that these people have talent to begin with, and so we ignore the mechanics by which they achieve their success. Yet, the vast majority of young creatives will not be able to be the opening act, and won’t be lucky enough to be friends with the next Damien Hirst. However, we can all be Kardashians. We all have the ability to create our own mythologies, to represent something larger than ourselves, something that people aspire towards. We can recognize the hope people have to transcend their normal lives is real, and we can cultivate communities of desire. We can all become doctors in the science of instant love.

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